The National – Tuesday, February 8, 2011
By KEVIN TEME
HELA Huli Wigmen have won the PNGNRL bid to be the 10th team in the inter-city challenge this year ahead of Gulf Isapeas and Central Lagatois.
The Wigmen will be based at Murray Barracks in Port Moresby and will be under Australian coach Luke Goodwin.
Defence rugby league club will now be the feeder club of the new franchise.
Former Australian Kangaroos and Queensland fullback/five-eighth, Julian O’Neill, will not be available to lead the team this year due to work commitments.
In an exclusive interview yesterday, O’Neill said he was proud that Wigmen finally got the green light for the inter-city cup but that he would not be available for the coaching role.
However, he said Goodwin was an excellent mentor, who would guide the team and O’Neill would only come in when he was in Port Moresby to provide technical assistance to Goodwin.
For the Isapeas, they came in a close second but missed out, nevertheless, they still have a chance to get in with the future of troubled franchise Masta Mak City Rangers still to be decided.
PNGNRL chairman Don Fox said his board had selected the Wigmen because of its strong financial backing worth K1.6 million per annum from a sponsor which they (Wigmen) would announce later.
Fox said all three teams put forward compelling cases for inclusion but the significantly backed Wigmen got the nod ahead of Isapeas and Lagatois.
In a press release yesterday, Fox said: “We selected the Hela Wigmen as the tenth franchise team in 2011 because they had great financial backing from a sponsor they will announce at a later date.”
Fox said the three key elements and criteria his board critically looked at were that a team needed to be financially backed well from a strong corporate sponsor where the support could sustain the team for at least the next three years and beyond; a team needs to have a homeground or undertake to develop a homeground; and they must have a player base to select or draft their players from.
While having a homeground seems to be problem for all three franchises, Fox said Wigmen had agreed to upgrade the Port Moresby rugby league infrastructure in particular the inner and outer fencing as part of their homeground deal while work is on for their home ground back in Tari would go ahead.
Fox said although Isapeas and Lagatois were unlucky to miss out, a possible spot could open for Isapeas while Lagatois were encouraged to reapply for next season but continue the good start by their organisers .
The news that the Tari-based franchise starting in Port Moresby could see many of the city’s talent having a crack at the semi-professional level this season.